Disney’s Dagger. Youngkin’s Move?
Plus: The Bulwark night in NYC.
Great night in NYC last night for our live event; huge turnout of Bulwark readers/listeners. Lively conversation and a few rather sharp disagreements.
You’ll be able to catch my segment with Tim Miller on today’s Bulwark Podcast this afternoon, and Sarah, JVL, and MJF on The Next Level. . . .
(Photos by Hannah Yoest, The Bulwark)
And since we’re doing promos here: I sat down with the brilliant and talented Margaret Hoover for a Firing Line interview that will be airing tonight on a PBS station near you. (Bonus trivia: This is actually my third appearance on Firing Line. The first two were with William F. Buckley Jr. back in the forgotten mists of time.)
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An opening for Youngkin?
Glenn Youngkin speaks during a campaign rally on November 1, 2021 in Leesburg, Virginia. (Photo by Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images)
We are just days away from the BIG DeSantis Announcement. Via Axios, DeSantis is about to roll out his 2024 presidential campaign in Miami next Wednesday. The theme? His vow to “Make America Florida.”
The NYT reported on his pitch to donors:
"You have basically three people at this point that are credible in this whole thing," DeSantis said on the call, organized by the super PAC backing him, Never Back Down. "Biden, Trump and me. And I think of those three, two have a chance to get elected president — Biden and me."
So the timing for this is, shall we say, less than ideal for the man formerly known as Meatball.
On Thursday, Mr. Iger and Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park and consumer products chairman, showed that they were not bluffing, pulling the plug on a nearly $1 billion office complex that was scheduled for construction in Orlando. It would have brought more than 2,000 jobs to the region, with $120,000 as the average salary, according to an estimate from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
There were, I’m sure, a number of factors that went into the decision, but the NYT reports, “the company’s battle with Mr. DeSantis and his allies in the Florida Legislature figured prominently into Disney’s decision to cancel the Lake Nona project, according to two people briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.”
So assh*lery has consequences. Who knew?
ICYMI, DeSantis has waged an open and not at all subtle campaign of retaliation against the entertainment giant. And the giant has been pushing back, first by reminding the governor that it is an economic powerhouse in the state. Via CNBC: “Iger has publicly lambasted DeSantis and the Florida government, noting that Disney has created thousands of indirect jobs, brings around 50 million visitors to Florida every year and is the state’s largest taxpayer.”
Last month, Disney escalated by filing a lawsuit accusing DeSantis and his cronies of carrying out a campaign of political retribution.
DeSantis targeted Disney’s special district, formerly called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, after the company publicly criticized a controversial Florida bill — dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics — that limits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms….
Disney filed its suit in late April after the new board voted to undo development contracts that the company said it struck to secure its investments. The company has since updated that lawsuit to include newly passed legislation targeting its monorail system as further evidence of retaliation by the governor.
A sign that Disney’s announcement adds to the rising tide of doubts about DeSantis’s prospects?
Here comes Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin. We are not experts in these things, but this certainly has a strong folks-he’s-running vibes to it:
I mean, who doesn’t like videos with jets?
But there are at least two odd things about this: (1) It leans heavily on Reagan nostalgia that feels a bit pre-2016, and (2) Youngkin seems to be betting that the GOP electorate is in the mood for upbeat optimism, rather than six more years of lizard carnage. Like this:
It goes without saying that (for now) Youngkin is pretending that Donald Trump doesn’t exist, but the video may be an indication that he feels there might be an opening for the pleasegodnotTrumpagain lane.
Meanwhile, who’s ready for . . . Chris Christie?
Also, you might want to clear your calendar for this: “Georgia Prosecutor Signals August Timetable for Charges in Trump Inquiry: The Fulton County district attorney said most of her staff would work remotely at times, and asked judges not to schedule trials, in the first half of August.”
1. The Chokehold Killing: What the Stupid Left-Right Debate Obscures
As promised, Cathy Young has a smart deep-dive into the death of Jordan Neely:
Right-wing and left-wing media have offered equally discordant narratives: Penny is either a hero who is being hounded by leftist activists and by a “woke” prosecutor for defending himself and others, or he is a murderer excused because the victim was a homeless, mentally ill black man who made people uncomfortable by complaining about being hungry.
The real facts of what Penny did and what happened to Neely in those fateful moments on the F train are still emerging and may never be fully known (despite a partial video). It’s a fact that Neely was acting erratically on the train, that Penny tackled him and put him in a chokehold while the two men struggled on the floor, and that two other male passengers helped pin Neely down.
It’s a fact that Penny’s chokehold killed Neely, as the medical examiner determined; his death has been deemed a homicide.
It’s a fact that Neely had an extensive history of mental illness, substance abuse, and arrests for violent behavior—most recently in 2021, when he randomly punched a 67-year-old woman leaving a subway station in the face, knocking her down and causing facial and head injuries.
It’s a fact that when outreach workers approached Neely on the subway in April, three weeks before his death, he urinated in front of them, prompting one of them to call the police; the team’s notes on the incident stated that Neely was “aggressive” and “could be a harm to others or himself if left untreated.”
It’s a fact that he had not assaulted anyone on the F train on the day of his death, though witnesses (including Juan Alberto Vasquez, the freelance journalist who filmed the widely viewed three-and-a-half-minute video) described his behavior as alarming. Indeed, the lead prosecutor at Penny’s arraignment acknowledged as much, saying, “Several witnesses observed Mr. Neely making threats and scaring passengers.”
Obviously, none of this means that Neely deserved to die, or even to be preemptively attacked. But Vasquez and the other passengers on the car thought Neely was being restrained, not killed. The chokehold has been widely used as a restraint technique not only in police work but in martial arts; however, in recent years, with rising concerns about police brutality, it has been increasingly viewed as potentially lethal in law enforcement, and some states and police departments have banned its use or restricted it to extreme cases in which deadly force is warranted. Even so, this hardly proves that Penny knowingly used deadly force. The choking may have been a tragic but accidental outcome, or Neely could have recklessly used excessive force. This is something that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office has now said is for a grand jury to decide—and then a trial jury if an indictment is returned.
2. Days from Crashing the Debt Ceiling
Plus Gross Rudy. Tim Miller’s latest Not My Party.
I'm loving every second of Disney sticking it up DeSantis' backside as if a rusty, jagged flagpole -- Schadenfreude at its finest as if an extreme sugar rush. Most people who know me see me as about the most anti-corporate person in their midst. Yet, per Arthasastra, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and if they want and need to flex their considerable muscles in order to bring down the bully that DeSantis revels in being, count me among those who will line up to support them.
DeSantis will find some way to try to make lemonade of this lemon, talking to those who eat up whatever he has to say as if gospel. But a billion dollars is no small amount of money in any scenario, and if things continue on this trajectory, up to and possibly including Disney relocating entirely to a neighboring state that is more hospitable, that will become his legacy in the end. Like all bullies fueled by their own self-importance, he is incapable of following the most fundamental advice for a leader: think and act thoroughly rather than quickly. Inevitably there are consequences over time for fools who so eagerly engage in a fool's errand.
As a New Jersey resident (and someone who watched him humiliate himself for Trump not that long ago) I can attest that Chris Christie is... not without his objectionable qualities. But if he's committing to the Trump-antagonist role, as it seems he is, I DO want to see him up on that debate stage. Out of everyone realistically in the picture, he's the one who stands a chance to really pummel Trump with some smart, bruising attack lines. You remember what he did to Marco Rubio. Needless to say, Trump is not Marco Rubio. But Christie can be just brutal, and someone needs to be just brutal to Trump.
Christie could actually fill the fantasy role that I had in my head for Liz Cheney. There are all sorts of obvious problems with this idea (that's why it's a fantasy) but at one point I pictured her running a kamikaze campaign just so she could get up onstage with Trump and rake him over the coals.
Christie won't see himself as a kamikaze. He'll think he can win. Whatever. But even if he goes nowhere in the race, he can be very effective in the role of wounding and diminishing Trump on the debate stage.